It's no secret that women are underrepresented to a shameful extent, in music and otherwise. Shit, in every industry just about. It's also no secret that not enough fight against that goes down which is why things like The Exchange II are starting to pop up in Baltimore and all around. We need discussions like those to continue challenging the patriarchal structure of our society. Amy Reid of Baltimore duo, Chiffon, is doing her part in that challenge with her new Baltimore-based party, GRL PWR, which exclusively showcases women performers and DJ's. Her last party featured performative dance by Fluct, a live set by Ami Dang and DJ sets by Genie and Isabejja. Aside from proving that they didn't need any men to pack over 300 people in a tight warehouse space, it also showed that there are tons of talented female artists that go unnoticed. Wanting to know more about the origins and intentions of GRL PWR, I caught up with Amy recently.
What was your initial mission when conceptualizing GRL PWR? Was it to show that you didn't need men or was it just to celebrate women?
Amy Reid: Definitely to celebrate women performers. Exclusion is the opposite of what I want. There is an obvious focus on women performers but I'm all about including people who want to be a part of it. Originally, I wanted it to be strictly DJS and then I realized how boring that could be to exclusively have DJ sets. I think the best shows are when you get a taste of everything which is why I love Baltimore. It's not out of the ordinary to walk into a show where there's 4 different genres of music being represented on a single bill and I love that. I also wanted GRL PWR to represent a mixture of established artists, up and coming artists, and people who have maybe never performed before. I was just getting into djing and I was trying to find women djs in the area and I had a hard time and I was kind of puzzled. I had a drink with a friend and they brought up a good point that I had never really thought of but if you don't see yourself represented in a genre or art form it's hard to picture yourself doing that. I think that's a little extremist but still holds some truth.
When you think about it, it's pretty crazy that there haven't been any women-focused shows in the city. But it's so common for an all-guy lineup to be booked without it even being a thing. I've been guilty of it too when putting shows together. How's all that make you feel?
AR: That was a driving force for sure and I know people don't do it intentionally I just hope that this event brings awareness to that. There have been a few that have happened over time like Puss Fuss, Female Front Fest, and Lady Fest. They are all cool events and there is always room for more. Like those events, mine is curated. I want every show to make sense even if it's in a non traditional way. There's a focus on electronic, club and movement/ dance performance so far but I'm not going to limit it to be only that.
Did any anxiety come during the planning process when you thought of how the party could be received?
AR: I definitely had anxiety before both events. Some people freak out when you start to talk about things like gender. I look at this event as a positive reaction to further support women performers and have a conversation about it if someone thinks differently. There was one person sort of trolling the first event facebook page which made me pretty bummed out. But realistically, you can't please everyone and not everyone will agree with you and that's okay, I am interested in the conversation that happened anyway even if I feel uneasy or start to second guess afterwards. That's how we grow, we listen to each other, contemplate, and agree disagree or meet somewhere in the middle. For the most part it's been positive.
Playing in Chiffon, you've done a good amount of traveling through touring with Future Islands. Was the disparity in women being booked a problem in other places as well?
AR: It's not unusual for me to be the only woman on a bill but thats not to say that it's 100% of the time. We play with a pretty broad spectrum of artists from a lot of different genres and backgrounds. When I'm on the road I actually forget about it cause I'm just doing my thing with Chase, my best friend/ bandmate. I don't really notice a difference in treatment or anything. It's when I take a step back and think about it, that's what makes me want to address it in a positive empowering way.
It's a common thought that women are marginalized the most in hip-hop culture but this party speaks to multiple genres. Is that struggle of being ignored just as prevalent in other genres, in your experience?
AR: I think that DJ culture is what initially sparked my interest in starting GRL PWR. It's a problem when you can't name more than 5 women DJS in your city and part of that is me learning more about djing in general. I obviously don't know everyone who is djing or interested in it, that would be stupid to assume. I just want to meet those people doing it or provide an opportunity for people interested in it.
A great thing that I noticed at last week's party was that the all-female lineup had little-to-no effect on the crowd's diversity in comparison to other shows in Baltimore. Was that something you put a lot of thought into?
AR: Yeah, definitely. I want to put on shows that slay every time which is generally the philosophy behind every show I play or book. I think that everyone can get down with celebrating powerful women performers and I am confident in everyone I ask to play or that wants to play. I want people to come to GRL PWR knowing that they are going to have a great experience.
How've people been receiving GRL PWR?
AR: By the turn out alone I think it's going well. The first one was about 150 and the second was about 300 which is crazy and i was not properly prepared for. I was talking to isa bella about that earlier, DJ isabejja, and we were trying to figure it out. It's one of those things where I have no idea at this point if its the performers, the event, the philosophy behind the event or a combination of why people want to be a part of it. Either way, I'm grateful that people want to be a part of it.
What effect do you hope the party will having on booking trends throughout Baltimore?
AR: I hope that people who perform at GRL PWR gain more attention and people become more open to giving budding artists a chance to shine. I also hope that people think more deeply about the ways that shows can be more dynamic and interesting be it location or performers. Not saying that this already doesn't happen, but there is always room for things to grow into something more.
Dream acts to have play at GRL PWR?
AR: Missy Elliot, Tink, Holly Herndon, Kelela, Grimes, Kali Uchis, Emily Reo.....everyone that has already performed has been that dream come true.